Houses in Richmond Park were flooded, and cars submerged in water, after the canal burst its banks on Saturday night.
The local secondary school, Ard Scoil Mhuire, narrowly escaped major water damage: Flood waters lapped its doors, but didn’t rise any further.
The Corbally road — one of the main arteries into Limeick — was closed yesterday, as workers pumped massive volumes of water from the nearby, submerged College Park Road into the river Shannon.
The area is prone to flooding, but usually from the direction of the Shannon, rather than from the canal. Alarm bells about the rising canal levels had been sounding since last Wednesday. On Thursday, the canal gates at nearby Lock Quay were partially opened to relieve rising water levels. However, these gates were closed again when water levels dropped.
Angry locals are questioning why it took so long to re-open the gates on Saturday, when record amounts of water were released from Parteen Weir, by the ESB, and the Mulcair river overflowed.
The fire department had to force the canal gates open, as the key, which is in the ownership of Waterways Ireland, could not be located.
Anthony and Vera O’Donnell are among the home-onwers in Richmond Park now counting the cost of the flooding, which claimed the life of one of their dogs.
Cradling her beloved Chihuahua dog, Princess, who drowned in the water that flooded her sitting room, 65-year-old Vera said: “She was my princess and I loved her. No matter where I go, when I come in the car she would bark and she would know I was coming,
“I put the dogs on the couch, because I thought they would be safe. I have a grandson and he just adores her. I just felt it was my fault, putting them in there. I just felt they would be safe in there.”
Mrs O’Donnell’s 66-year-old husband, Anthony, fought back tears as he watched neighbours help pump the water out of their home. He said the couple never expected the water to come up into their sitting room.
“We never expected the water to come up that high. One of dogs jumped off the couch and drowned. It could have been the same thing if it was a child, it just came in so fast.”
Some 420 girls attend the local secondary school, Ard Scoil Mhuire, which principal Brid Herbert hopes will be open again tomorrow at the latest. It escaped serious flood damage.
“When I came here, the whole front of the school was completely covered in water. It was up to poeple’s waists, but it actually didn’t get into the school, which is an absolute miracle,” she said.
“It got to the last step and it didn’t get into the doors, so thank God the school is not affected. They were pumping water out of the front of the school, through Saturday night, and the school will be open by tomorrow at the very latest.”
Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan, who lives in Corbally, visited the area yesterday morning and said questions needed to be answered about how the canal-gate system was manged.
“There does seem to have been confusion between Waterways Ireland’s role and the Council’s role, and the canal gates were not opened when the water poured down the Mulcair, when it became swollen,” she said.
“Apparently, they didn’t open the gates until quite late, the middle of the night, when people were already flooded, so, certainly, there are questions to be answered as to what exactly what happened and why the gate wasn’t reopened, after it had been opened earlier in the week.
“We do have to find out what exactly happened, but there’s no doubt there are questions, and some very serious questions, and some some devastating results for the people in the Richmond Park area.”
Rugby fans who left their cars parked at Ardscoil Mhuire secondary school, ahead of the Munster match in Thomond Park on Saturday returned to find their vehicles almost underwater.
Local Sinn Fein councillor Maurice Quinlivan, who was helping homeowners in Richmond Park on Sunday morning, described what happened in Corbally as a “man-made flood”.
“We need to confirm, with Waterways Ireland, what happened here. I believe this is a man-made flood,” he said. “It shouldn’t have happened. I believe we were aware of this on Thursday. There was work done on the canal bank and we were assured the bank was open and it wouldn’t flood, so the fact this area has flooded is absolutely disgraceful.
“It illustrates the stupid situation we are in, where a number of utilities operate water services across the country.
“Nobody seemed to know who was in charge here on Saturday.
“There are houses here that could have been protected, but because of the flooding we weren’t ready for it. If it’s a case that the canal-bank gate was closed, Waterways Ireland caused that flood and I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that’s what happened.”